Comments on U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Proposed Rule (62 FR 39093)
"Radiological Criteria for License Termination: Uranium Recovery Facilities"

James M. Rauch                                                February 9, 1998

1)  As described (section II. Discussion), the proposed rule is unacceptable
because the proposed criteria will result in doses in excess of the 100
millirem per year dose standard for protection of the public established in 
10 CFR Part 20.  

2)  The statement is made (section II. Discussion) that "per UMTRCA, the
authority to set such cleanup standards for uranium mills rests with EPA." 
This statement is not completely correct.  UMTRCA created a shared
responsibility by both EPA and NRC for the management of 11.e.(2) byproduct
materials.  Section 84.a. of UMTRCA states, in part, "The Commission shall
insure that the management of any such byproduct material, as defined in
section 11e.(2), is carried out in such manner as -- (1) the Commission deems
appropriate to protect the public health an safety and the environment from
radiological and non-radiological hazards associated with the processing and
with the possession and transfer of such material." [emphasis added]  This
section of UMTRCA (Title II) resulted in NRC's promulgation of new 10 CFR 40
Section 40.2a (45 FR 65531, Oct. 3, 1980), subsection (b) of which states, in
part, "The Commission will regulate byproduct material as defined in this part
that is located at a site where milling operations are no longer active, if
such site is not covered by the remedial action program of title I of the
Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act of 1978."  The fact that NRC has
failed to regulate 11.e.(2) materials at many of these sites provides no
justification for the currently proposed non-protective rule.

3)  UMTRCA was enacted by Congress as a direct result of serious radiation
exposure problems which had developed in western communities at or near uranium
processing operations.  The acute problem identified were radon doses
associated with the radium component of exposures to poorly managed uranium
processing wastes.  As a result, Title I of UMTRCA specifically designated
twenty such sites for cleanup, and resulted in the EPA's 40 CFR 192 Title I
radium standard [48 FR 602, Jan 5, 1983] (later duplicated for Title II sites
[48 FR 45946, Oct 7, 1983]).  The stated dose basis for this radium standard is
given as approximately 500 millirems per year, or a lifetime cancer risk of
0.02, or 1 in 50 (NRC's November 1992 "A Summary of NRC's Interim Radiological
Cleanup Criteria and Current Dose Bases").  This document also lists a RESRAD
(default parameter) dose estimate of 260 mrem/yr.  This is not a protective
standard compared to the current 10 CFR 20's 100 millirem standard.  In
addition, EPA addressed only the radium component of these wastes, and
neglected the uranium decay chains' other members, notably U-238, U-234, and
Th-230, in effect creating a major regulatory gap for the significant doses
from these other materials.  In their comments on the proposed cleanup rule,
members of the non-regulated community said that uranium/thorium mill disposal
areas and soil cleanup at such sites should logically be included in the final
rule, thereby closing this regulatory gap.  Instead, NRC bowed to the wishes of
the regulated community.  NRC now seems intent upon further codifying these

4)  NRC had previously (October, 1981) adopted a "Branch Technical Position
(BTP) on Disposal or Onsite Storage of Thorium or Uranium Wastes from Past
Operations" (46 FR 52061), which addresses all uranium decay chain members and
provides several management options.  This 17 year-old BTP has been
consistently applied at those sites listed in the SDMP.  Option 1, the only
currently available option for uranium sites (following the April 6, 1992 SRM),
provides a 10 pCi/g total uranium guideline, equivalent to a 5 pCi/g level for
Ra-226, Th-230, U-234, and U-238.  In addition, NRC has consistently applied
the Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards' Policy and Guidance
Directive FC 83-23, which was released as a final rule on November 4, 1983 and
which contains surface decontamination criteria and the BTP's soil cleanup
guidelines.  The provisions of the BTP and FC 83-23 should constitute NRC's
minimum requirements for this proposed cleanup rule.  

5)  The statement is made that "Calculations done by EPA in support of 40 CFR
part 192 indicated that the dose from radium, excluding radon, was
approximately 0.6 mSv.yr (60 mrem/yr) (the final cleanup rule notes that doses
from radon would be controlled by cleanup of radium which is the principal
precursor to radon)."  First, this 60 mrem/yr estimate is not in agreement with
the stated dose basis or NRC RESRAD calculations noted above (comment 3).  It
is also not in agreement with an NRC staffers' calculations showing 200 mrem/yr
using only the first 6 inches of soil at 5 pCi/g radium only (not a
conservative assessment since significant dose may result from 15 pCi/g at
deeper layers) and excluding radon dose.  Please fully explain this
discrepancy, if possible.  Second, where does the final cleanup rule
("Radiological Criteria for License Termination") specifically state that radon
doses will be included in demonstrating compliance with the dose standard?  We
have heard recent statements to the contrary.  

6)  Radon doses are a major part of total dose from uranium processing
materials.  Radon doses attributable to 11.e.(2) materials should be included
as a required element of complying with the 10 CFR 20 dose standard.  If NRC
disagrees, it must fully justify the exclusion of such radon doses.  We are
unaware that radon is specifically exempted from NRC regulation, please cite
statute and section if NRC knows otherwise.  The problem of radium ingrowth
from parent chain members must be addressed, as the BTP approach does.  The
minimum timeframe for dose analysis should be 10,000 years since the longevity
of the hazard from radium parents is virtually indefinite.  Recognizing this
duration of hazard issue, the Hanford EIS and the HLW repository EIS have
adopted a 10,000 year timeframe.  Even so, 10,000 years will only cover
ingrowth from Th-230 (which will peak at approximately 9000 years in the

7)  The proposed approach for this rule is unclear.  It seems that the
allowable dose from radionuclides other than radium must not exceed the dose
from radium (using the 40 CFR 192 radium standard, which may be 200 mrem/yr or
more, not including radon dose), but does not include the radium dose. 
Therefore, the total allowable dose would be twice the radium dose.  Is this
correct?  Therefore, the total dose may exceed 400 mrem/yr, not including radon
dose.  See comment 1.

8)  NRC says that based on comments received on the proposed cleanup rule
("Radiological Criteria for License Termination") it decided to pursue this
separate rulemaking for "uranium recovery facilities".  What NRC does not say
is that many comments were received from public interest groups and other
regulators objecting to exempting facilities from the proposed cleanup rule. 
The comments favoring this alternate rulemaking came from the regulated
community.  Why did NRC choose to give this historically poorly-regulated
community special treatment?  NRC cites "unique decommissioning problems", but
does not give any valid reasons for this special treatment other than to
obliquely refer to the historic regulatory problems noted in our previous
comments.  This is no defense for this attempt to promulgate a rule that will
not be protective of public health, i.e. that will not meet the 10 CFR Part 20
100 millirem dose standard.

9)  According to NRC staff there have been no comments from the public on this
proposed rule.  There have been only ten comments in all, two each from EPA and
Illinois, and six from the regulated community.  One reason for this may be
that those who objected to special treatment for these facilities may have felt
this rulemaking was a fait accompli, and therefore, that further comment was
futile.  Some may question NRC's usefulness as a regulator in this sphere,
viewing this rulemaking as an example of NRC's willingness to participate in de
facto self-regulation by these facilities.

10)  The specific areas of "uranium recovery facilities" which are to be
covered by this rulemaking are identified in the notice as "areas under mill
buildings, in a yellow cake storage area, under/around an ore pad, and at ISLs
[in situ leach] in soils where spray irrigation has occurred as a means of
disposal".   An NRC staffer has indicated that other areas, such as "windblown
areas", may be included in the final rule.  Any inclusion of areas other than
as noticed would be an enlargement of scope and would require additional notice
and review.